Tech Hub roundtable: Powering digital adoption among UK small businesses

Tech Hub roundtable: Powering digital adoption among UK small businesses

Posted: Tue 12th Dec 2023

Enterprise Nation held a roundtable of leading tech companies, senior government policymakers and small business leaders to launch the Tech Hub policy report on powering digital adoption among UK small businesses.

With our partners Google, Sage, Vodafone Business, Dell, BCS, Square and Block, and alongside hosts Cisco, we were thrilled to be joined by:

  • Austen Okonweze, the Department for Business and Trade's deputy director for business support

  • Blake Bower, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology's executive director, Digital Economy Unit.

Read on for a summary of what was discussed on the day.

Powering digital adoption among UK SMEs

Mike Spicer, managing director at PolicyDepartment, opened proceedings with a presentation on the key findings of his report. The Tech Hub report found that while basic technology is essential for many business tasks today, companies show major inconsistencies in adopting more advanced tools. For example, few back up data with third-party software despite security benefits.

Mike added that the main driver for small businesses using the latest tech is saving time, with tech-savvy leaders potentially gaining 3.5 weeks annually via faster processes and better customer connections.

Cloud storage, file sharing, and simultaneous editing are the most widely used technologies today, while AI and digital marketing automation lead small businesses 2024 adoption priorities.

Small business confidence levels depend on the technology, with the highest levels of confidence recorded for cloud and e-signature software. But, confidence levels across small businesses are far lower for sales, speech recognition, and automated customer service.

On the obstacles to tech adoption, PolicyDepartment’s research uncovered licensing and subscription costs, skills gaps, lack of expertise, and information overload. Mike emphasised the importance of ensuring technological support is essential to boost take-up.

He rounded off the presentation with the following key recommendations:

For the tech industry:

  • Demystify emerging tech through small business campaigns.

  • Launch outreach programs on new tools.

  • Create workplace training forums supporting local skills improvement.

For small businesses:

For government:

  • Incentivise tech adoption via financial backing, tax breaks and subsidies.

  • Fund training introducing business owners to new tech and legal uses.

Mike concluded by suggesting that the tech landscape keeps evolving rapidly. But, with the right support and incentives, small companies can harness new tools, boost productivity, save time and boost profits.

Roundtable discussion key points

Following Mike Spicer's presentation, Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation’s founder and CEO, opened the floor to attendee input, where the following key points were made.

Tech adoption challenges for small businesses

Attendees noted that small businesses face challenges in using digital tools, often needing support and training to keep their skills up to date. In addition, it was noted that small businesses are often unaware of tech adoption options.

Improving digital skills for small businesses and government

Attendees agreed that the tech industry can help small businesses by providing simplified technology information and mentorship. Furthermore, it was suggested that local businesses in the UK could be given access to a national forum for tech adoption through the Tech Hub, with support from government agencies and free/low-cost tools.

The importance of targeted programmes for small businesses, including tax incentives and training programmes, to make digital adoption more financially viable was mooted.

Supporting small businesses with digital advice and training

Attendees suggested creating a focal point for small businesses to access training and advice, such as a digital platform or one-stop shop. It was suggested that this could create a hub for small businesses to get digital advice and avoid obtaining poor quality information on tech tools to go for.

Simplifying digital marketing for small businesses

Attendees highlighted the need for practical, step-by-step guidance for small businesses, particularly in email marketing, where it was suggested that some existing platforms lack a clear, structured and easily-understood approach.

On the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), it was suggested that AI bots could advise small businesses on what to do, while also offering low-cost self-serve options for those who want to take on more complex tasks. There was consensus on the perceived lack of clarity for business owners on where to go for tech solutions.

Digital skills training and incentives for small businesses

Attendees reflected that technology provides bespoke opportunities for small businesses across the UK, taking the hospitality and leisure sectors as example, where technology can help manage workers and scheduling.

But the importance of ensuring the right incentives are put in place to encourage business investment in digital skills was emphasised, citing the need for a single hub to simplify the tech landscape and give practically implementable recommendations to small businesses.

The challenge of navigating the marketplace for relevant and high-quality skills training was cited, with the need for clear signposting and guidance from industry collectives or Skills Councils suggested.

Attendees posited the idea of potentially broadening the use of apprenticeship levy funds to include training for small businesses in larger companies' supply chains. The Digital Skills Council's report on mobilising apprenticeships in small and medium-sized enterprises, including offering apprenticeships for specific projects, was cited.

Simplifying digital adoption for small businesses

Navigating the digital landscape remains challenging for small businesses, especially when systems seem overly complex. The need to simplify the process so smaller companies can thrive in the digital age was emphasised.

Furthermore, it was suggested that government agencies could add value by directing small businesses to reputable digital adoption platforms like Enterprise Nation, rather than just to gov.uk. Targeted guidance could provide real value over one-size-fits-all approaches. Collaboration between public and private sectors may hold the key to overcoming digital obstacles.

Digital transformation for small businesses

Enabling small business digital transformation requires collaboration and support. Attendees proposed creating a platform where owners can connect with peers and access trusted recommendations on adopting technology.

The importance of trust and partnerships for small business adoption was cited, with attendees suggesting that trusted advisers are an invaluable resource for encouraging tech adoption, and resources like the Tech Hub being a trusted source.

Attendees agreed that clear legislation further enables small business tech adoption, with the need for regulatory clarity emphasised.


In conclusion, attendees agreed that small firms require collaboration and support to adopt new tech successfully. Trusted communities can provide recommendations and advice based on real-world experience.

Ongoing training and expert guidance help build critical capabilities. And location-based incentives and clear legislation remove barriers, rather than solely mandating change. With the right partnerships and policy environment, small businesses can transform digitally on their own terms.


Tech Hub: Recommendations and resources to help small businesses adopt new technology

About Tech Hub

Backed by top technology firms, Tech Hub is a new-generation, one-stop-shop solution that allows businesses to access industry-leading digital tools, training, support, and know-how to succeed, all in one place. Take me to the hub

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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